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Cuatro Ventos (Four Winds) Park, Denver

Landscape Architecture by Stream Design, LLC, Denver





The adopted master plan for Cuatro Vientos Park in Denver illustrates a design culminating from input from neighbors, city staff and political leaders. The plan and all graphics produced for the project are described in English and Spanish to communicate the intent to community members and stakeholders.
Image: Stream Design


In the realm of new urban parks, Cuatro Vientos Park is a relatively small but meaningful project for Denver. The project is representative of how relatively modest investments in communities can create an overwhelming wave of good will and community-building momentum. The project bolsters the perception of the landscape architecture profession as one that fundamentally benefits the health and welfare of a community.

The site of this new park once included a dilapidated mobile home park, and an unsavory bar that most neighbors avoided. Further, the Westwood neighborhood is one of the most park-deprived areas in Denver. Conceived by landscape architecture firm Stream Design (Stream) as Westwood's "front porch," the design for Cuatro Vientos Park capitalizes on the site's spectacular views of the Denver skyline to the east and Longs Peak to the west, while providing a vibrant and active community open space with a unique playground, interactive water feature, turf activity areas, picnic areas and nearly 50 new trees.

 




A medicine wheel of colored glass aggregate paving (design by Stream, installed by Colorado Hardscapes) represents the four winds. The ultra-low water-usage splashpad (water mechanics by Water Odyssey) has nine nozzles; one sprays from the turtle's shell (designed by Stream, fabricated by Integrated Design Solutions). The turtle has the continents embossed on its back, a reference to several Native American legends of a turtle bearing the earth.



Stream worked closely with local residents, the community advocacy group LiveWell Westwood, neighborhood organizations and Denver Parks and Recreation staff to create a powerful coalition dedicated to making the park an asset for all of the members of the diverse Westwood neighborhood. As Cuatro Vientos is the first new park developed in the Westwood area in more than 30 years, the park fulfills the vision of a place where families can gather, recreate and enjoy the views; more importantly, the park is a source of pride for the community by celebrating people of all ages and cultures.

With very few parks in the neighborhood, well under the Denver's standard of 10 park acres per 1,000 residents, and no recent park development in the area, the Westwood community's hopes, needs and expectations were high. The park has been an incredibly important project for Denver. It represents a concerted effort to provide more equity in recreational resources throughout the mile-high city. The visionary thinking of city political leaders and Denver Parks and Recreation's efforts that preceded the design phase inspired the park. Collaborators included the Denver Office of Economic Development, the Better Denver Bond Program, Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), and the Trust for Public Lands (TPL) to acquire and clean up the land, and the overwhelming participation and support of the community.

 




A young skateboarder tests the new ramp and platform, a multi-purpose feature that not only attracts skateboarders, but is also popular with BMX bikers and kids who just want to slide down the ramp's smooth concrete surface. Low walls along the edge of the ramp offer seating for viewers of the action.
Image: Denver Parks and Recreation



Stream led a highly interactive and dynamic public involvement that ultimately earned the Colorado Chapter of the American Planning Association's 2013 Award for Outstanding Public Process. The inspiration generated by the community pushed the design team to create a place that reflects and celebrates the true spirit of Westwood. Ultimately, the park was made possible by an impressive collaborative effort between the designers, city staff, political leaders and nonprofit groups. The site, just one and half acres, is relatively small for a neighborhood park, and had two developmental challenges: steep slopes and proximity to a busy Alameda Avenue. Despite the challenging site conditions, the community wanted the park to have an extensive variety of amenities and park elements that including: soccer; basketball; walking paths and picnic areas; skateboarding elements; a special playground; and a water play feature, an element rarely found in Denver's neighborhood-scale parks. In response to the community's input and Park and Rec goals, Stream's design team worked to integrate a great variety of uses and multifunctional overall space smaller than a regulation soccer field, while also fulfilling an important desire of the community for the park to serve as a safe communal venue.

 




Limited site space required compact, durable play elements ('Rotating Dish' pictured) to accommodate multiple children simultaneously.
Image: Denver Parks and Recreation



Stream collaborated with city staff and the district's council person to develop design inspiration loosely based on the Native American legend of the four winds, or cuatro vientos in Spanish. The physical metaphor of Westwood's front porch reflects the community's desire for a highly visible social gathering space that neighbors take pride in, is safe and a joyful outdoor recreational area, a concept further reinforced by the park's location at the edge of the neighborhood, perched on a hilltop overlooking the city. The design team integrated these inspirational themes into design concepts and elements that reflect the culture and character of the community.

 




The "eagle's nest" play piece (Landscape Structures) provides an elevated perch to view the playground, offering a log climber and a platform for the slides.



Water Wheel
The water feature was designed to be an attractive year-round element. This ultra-low water consuming water feature is designed as a stylized medicine wheel made from custom colored glass aggregate paving. It represents the four directional winds, which in turn symbolize the diverse peoples of the world. As several Native American legends refer to the importance of the turtle bearing the earth upon its back, the feature is anchored by a custom turtle sculpture designed by Stream to have the relief imprint of the earth's continents integrated into its shell. To the delight of children, water showers them as it sprays out of nine nozzles, including one that is incorporated into the top of the turtle's shell.

 




The Westwood community wanted a number of amenities, including a soccer field. At one and half acres the site is relatively small for a neighborhood park, but the designers managed to fit a less than regulation soccer field, which doubles as a multi-use green space. A smaller green space adjacent is used for picnicking. The prominent slope is a good place to watch city fireworks, for kids to roll in the grass or go sledding in the winter. The turf is a drought-tolerant hybrid Kentucky bluegrass.
Image: Denver Parks and Recreation



Separated Play Areas
The age separated play areas combine traditional and nature-based play approaches and are themed around the eagle, known by many Native American cultures as a symbol of great strength, leadership and vision as it soars on the winds. Anchored by a main play feature designed to be the eagle's nest, children can climb high into the sky seeing fantastic views to the city and foothills. Two platform swings enable them to fly high, experiencing the winds like an eagle. Boulders, sand, plantings, and other features ground the area in a naturalized setting and soften the features. A life-sized custom chrome eagle sculpture by artist Sean Guerrero with an 8-ft. wingspan can be seen from a great distance. It sits 18-ft. high atop the talon-shaped steel gateway feature to proudly welcome families into Cuatro Vientos Park. Because of the limited site space, Stream designed a ball court area to be multifunctional, providing a place for families to play games like basketball and hopscotch, and incorporating a skateable ramp feature that doubles as grandstands or as a slide for the adventurous.

 




The life-sized custom chrome eagle sculpture by artist Sean Guerrero has an 8-ft. wingspan and sits 18-ft. high atop a talon-shaped steel gateway to the park. The eagle is one of several important spiritual figures from Native American lore referenced in the park. The landscape architects liked the image of an eagle high in the sky riding the wind, for the "four winds" park theme.
Image: Stream Design



Physically integrating the park into the community was also critical to the design. The steep slopes of road and walkways that approach Alameda presented significant access challenges from the surrounding neighborhood. Because of the surrounding topography, the site had a large retaining wall, which blocked views into the park, was covered with years of paint and graffiti, and was generally a blight on the neighborhood. Additionally, the wall created a major barrier between the street edge, a heavily used bus stop, and the future park.

 




The site had a large graffiti-covered retaining wall that blocked views into the park, and also created a major barrier between the avenue and a heavily used bus stop. The landscape architects drastically reduce the wall height, and integrated a universally accessible ramp to allow direct access from the bus stop on Alameda Avenue. An engraved wall at the new ramp proudly announces the Westwood neighborhood to passers-by. The guard railing was custom made by K&K Fabrication in Denver, as was the talon base for the eagle sculpture.



For all of these reasons, Stream made it a priority to drastically reduce the wall height, increase views into the park, and integrate safe and open access to the bus stop and street edge from the park. Since the project budget could not afford full removal and replacement of the wall, the designers renovated the wall by removing layers of paint, replacing degraded railing, rejuvenating planters, and most importantly, cutting down and through the wall to provide improved visibility and a direct universally accessible entry point. A low engraved wall at the new ramp proudly announces the Westwood neighborhood to passers-by. The design has proven to dramatically improve walking connections through the neighborhood, and invites people and activity in, adding life to and "eyes on" the park.

 




The playground features a double Elephant swing for communal play. The shade shelter is from Poligon. Urban Play Studio was the play design collaborator and compliance consultant.





Stream's project team included a play design specialist, civil and structural engineers, a community advocacy nonprofit organization, an irrigation designer, and an electrical/lighting engineer. Stream led all aspects of design and project management, including master planning, community involvement, construction documentation, and construction observation. In addition to overall design and leadership of the consultant team, specialty areas of the design were led by Stream.

 




Denver Mayor Michael Hancock (right) and Councilman Paul Lopez (left) cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony for Cuatro Vientos, the first new park developed in the Westwood area in more than 30 years. A Native American troupe performed ceremonial dances at the opening.
Image: Denver Parks and Recreation

 




The main walkway forms an ADA accessible, measurable walking loop (7 loops equals a mile) through the park, a feature requested by the community. The RB-12 backless benches and trash receptacles (model S-42) are from Victor Stanley. The picnic tables are vinyl-coated punched steel pedestal models. The foreground tree is 'Redmond' linden (Tilia Americana). The lighting is provided and maintained by the local utility, Xcel Energy. The landscape architects could only select a luminaire from a hand full of approved models, choosing an acorn type 150-watt HPS fixture on 14' 6" poles. LEDs are not yet on the utility's approved list.
Image Credit: Stream Design

 




Children signed their names to the temporary artwork prior to the park's grand opening. Additional project team members were DesignScapes Colorado (general construction contractor); Muller Engineering; Yeh Associates (geotechnical engineering); SSG MEP (electrical); and Hydrosystems KDI (irrigation).
Image: Denver Parks and Recreation







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